Roger Ebert’s Best Ten Movie’s of 2012

Earlier this month, I sustained a hairline fracture of my left hip… That’s the bad news. The worse news is that medications have impaired my ability to write. Because there is curiosity about my list, I present this very abbreviated piece, with the promise I will later revise it, better written, as my ability restores itself.

Here then, in alphabetical order, are the Best 10 Films I Saw in 2012:

• Arbitrage
• Argo
• Beasts of the Southern Wild
• End of Watch
• Flight
• Life of Pi
• Lincoln
• Oslo, August 31
• The Sessions
• A Simple Life

(Thanks to jlu)

Read Mr Ebert’s brief tributes to each film and more details of his mishap.

Grand Jury Prizes
(after the cut)

At many film festivals, the juries come up with a cockamamie category named the Grand Jury Prizes. It finds room for titles that were as good, in one way or another, than the others. Finding them a place in the numerical listing is a problem, because, really, what does such a ranking mean? Here are my 10 Grand Jury Prizes, again arranged in that frustrating order –alphabetically:

“Central Park Five”
“In the Family”
“Last Ride”
“A Late Quartet”
“The Master”
“Paradise Lost 3″
“Searching for Sugar Man”
“West of Memphis”

Andrew O’Hehir’s 10 Best Movies of 2012

Next Story »

BBC’s Talking Movies Top Ten


  1. steve50
    December 27, 2012

    (moved from another string as I didn’t see Ryan’s post)

    This from Ebert’s top ten (probably the most glowing summation on his list):

    “Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’ is a miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery. Inspired by a worldwide best-seller that many readers must have assumed could not be filmed, it is a triumph over its difficulties. It is also a spiritual achievement, a movie whose title could have been shortened to ‘Life.’”

    Not out of the game yet.

  2. December 27, 2012

    Interesting that he mentions The Master, as his review wasn’t particularly positive. I wonder if he’s seen Zero Dark Thirty. Perhaps, if he likes it, he’ll include it on his revised list. Perhaps he’s seen it and doesn’t like it enough to include it here. Perhaps he’ll consider it a film of 2013.

  3. December 27, 2012

    RAMPART was good but that was last year.

    I only saw ARBITRAGE a few days ago. I thought it was pretty awesome. The rest of that list? I don’t know. I used to agree with him in the 90s. lol Anyhoo, I like Andy Lau. I’m gonna have to search that one out.

  4. David Lindsey
    December 27, 2012

    …and no mention of CLOUD ATLAS, which he gave 4 stars.

  5. steve50
    December 27, 2012

    I noticed the same thing, David. Maybe it will appear in his revised list – at least a mention.

  6. Casey
    December 27, 2012

    Was sad he didn’t include cloud atlas which he gave a rave review, but still it’s a solid list.

    And I enjoyed the love for both paradise lost 3 and west of Memphis in his honorable mentions

  7. mecid
    December 27, 2012
  8. December 27, 2012

    …and no mention of CLOUD ATLAS, which he gave 4 stars.

    Well, he said he’s on medicine.

    This is why I don’t trust doctors, kids. They’re trying to make us all into pod people.

    p.s. I didn’t make Andy Lau’s name a link. The website did that. Big Brother’s on the march too, looks like.

  9. Aragorn
    December 27, 2012

    Ugh then he must be part of anti-Zero Dark thirty conspiracy. How dare he not include it? He must have a problem with a female director or he is falling for tha torture story??? Otherwise how does he not?.

    These are some of the reactions we may get in this site. If you don’t like Lincoln or ZDT enough you will get called names here. Thank god I really liked them both.

  10. Spout
    December 27, 2012

    His ZDT review is on his blog. Three stars only. Guess that hairline fracture made him a bit too grouchy and forced him to watch a screener.

  11. PaulH
    December 27, 2012

    Good grief, hasn’t Ebert gone through enough crap as it is? Get well soon, Roger.

  12. Daveylow
    December 27, 2012

    So because Ebert leaves out a film you love he is on too many meds? The truth is there are a lot of wonderful films to love beyond the Oscar contenders. I just saw Argo, which was solid, but I don’t think it would make my too 10.

  13. mecid
    December 27, 2012

    Aragorn, he likes Bigelow. The Hurt Locker was his fav of 2009 and his 2nd fav of 2000s.

  14. mecid
    December 27, 2012

    Sorry, Aragorn. I thought questions were your.

  15. Jerry Grant
    December 27, 2012

    Roger Ebert was the first writer who turned me on to film criticism, and in many ways helped induct me into movie fanaticism. I still turn to him for a kind of generosity, open-mindedness, and big-heartedness that’s otherwise hard to find in the world of movie reviews. God bless, and get well soon!

  16. December 27, 2012

    @Davelow Everyone is on too many meds. But Roger’s been unreliable ever since he got sick in the first place. However, giving a movie 4 stars and then not putting it on your top ten list, or the also-rans, when it could use a push is odd. It happens though. No one is calling the police.

  17. Mohammed
    December 27, 2012

    Plus for not putting in Zero Dark Thirty, minus for Oslo, August 31st.

  18. danemychal
    December 27, 2012

    Will Roger’s streak continue? He has had the BP winner on his list since 2004.

  19. The Japanese Viewer
    December 27, 2012

    I am glad the Hong Kong drama film A Simple Life is included on the list. Another great piece from East Asia.

    And thanks to some positive word-of-mouth comments spotted here from time to time, as well as his inclusion of the film on the list, Oslo, August 31 has now become one of the must-see pieces on my list along with Holy Motors, etc. : )

    Please take care, Mr. Ebert.

  20. December 27, 2012

    Roger Ebert’s end-of-year lists are always a little selective, perhaps, as if he’s picking the films he remembers he liked, and not actually reviewing the year. Fair enough, though. If he’s leaving Cloud Atlas off because he’s forgotten how much he enjoyed it, perhaps it hasn’t merited inclusion.

  21. The Dude
    December 27, 2012

    As expected from Ebert, a safe list, with nothing too out of the ordinary.

  22. Spout
    December 27, 2012

    In hindsight, I was being too harsh, apologies. I do wish the man well and a speedy recovery. His list is nice, too, if a bit on the safe side.

  23. SallyinChicago
    December 27, 2012

    Let’s stop talking about Roger please. I saw him a few months ago and the man needs constant help. But it’s his wife who is doing much of the writing and criticing and I agree with almost everything he chose, including Arbitrage, which was a very good overlooked movie. A surprise ending. Glad he didn’t put Django on the list, which not sure he saw or not, but I don’t think Django is going to be nom’d or win the BP.

  24. CB
    December 27, 2012

    Surprised not to see Cloud Atlas.

    The Dude, I hear you, but Ebert can be reliable for the occasional beautifully written and considered look back. His most recent “Ten Best Films of All Time” is a heartfelt and heartbreakingly well-written piece, and he includes ‘Tree of Life’ on it.

  25. steandric
    December 27, 2012

    Good to see “The Impossible” on his list, and both hyees “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty” not.

    “As the film’s heroine, Naomi Watts powerfully becomes a front-runner for an Academy Award…..“The Impossible” is one of the best films of the year.” – 4 stars out of 4, by Roger Ebert, Dec 19, 2012

  26. Jerry Grant
    December 27, 2012

    I could be called silly for this, but not seeing “Zero Dark Thirty” on Ebert’s “best of” list is the first thing that makes me reconsider my long-standing prediction that it would win Best Picture. Not because I think Ebert influences many, but because I think his taste is a telling (not determinative) indicator of mainstream taste. I didn’t realize that there would be people who thought twice about ZDT’s excellence. Now I realize it is possible. Given controversy and a growing feeling among people that they simply don’t *want* it to win, I’m now thinking Lincoln, Les Miz, and Argo each have a real shot.

  27. CB
    December 27, 2012

    Agreed Jerry – I think it’s between Argo and Lincoln. We’ll know when the Best Director statue is handed out. Though if Argo wins Screenplay, it’s gonna be BD and BP.

    Ebert was the only person who said Crash would win (also that it should win, which of course we all disagree with).

  28. brace
    December 27, 2012

    glad to see Arbitrage on his list.I think that movie was as good as the most Oscar contenders (maybe even better than some). I’m still hoping for Richard Gere’s surprise nomination for best actor (over Washington, Cooper and Jackman)

  29. Linc4jess
    December 27, 2012

    Roger Ebert states…he regret doing this list because he hasn’t seen some of the films like “Django Unchained” and “Hobbitt” and probably “Les Miserables” etc. He hasn’t reviewed “ZDT” so that is another one he hasn’t seen.

  30. Linc4Jess
    December 27, 2012

    If I was guessing I would say “Lincoln” is Ebert’s Number one this year.

  31. December 27, 2012

    I didn’t realize that there would be people who thought twice about ZDT’s excellence.

    That is a little bit silly, isn’t it? I’m glad you expected to be called silly :)

    Look at that sentence. Plug in the title of some other great movies in place of ZDT. Every movie has doubters. If you don’t realize that ZDT is not universally acclaimed by everybody who’s seen it, then please dial back your expectations a little bit. You should realize that there’s always somebody who doesn’t like a movie — even always somebody important.

    Ebert is not infallible. He likes what he likes, but he pulls bizarre boners and bestows head-scratching star ratings all the time.

    Given controversy and a growing feeling among people that they simply don’t *want* it to win

    Jerry Jerry Jerry — there are also people who don’t want _____, ______, _____ & _____ to win. Fill in that black with any of the best 20 movies of the year. Every movie has a bunch of people who don’t want it to win. You know that.

  32. mecid
    December 27, 2012

    His ranked list, Ryan.

    1. Argo.
    2. Life of Pi.
    3. Lincoln.
    4. End of Watch.
    5. Arbitrage.
    6. Flight.
    7. The Sessions.
    8. Beasts of the Southern Wild.
    9. Oslo, August 31.
    10. A Simple Life.

  33. Lars
    December 27, 2012

    Glad to see Arbitrage on the list! It’s definitely on mine because I think the script and performances are so strong. One of the underrated films this year (Argo, to me, one of the overrated films this year).

    Too bad I’ve already put A Simple Life on my top 10 last year…

  34. Jerry Grant
    December 27, 2012

    Ryan, of course I realize there would be people who wouldn’t like the movie. But I haven’t yet seen a real articulation against its high movie quality that isn’t based on its politics (or lack thereof). Am I wrong? There hasn’t been much talk about it being a less than supremely-excellent film, even if it has political issues; this is not the case for the others this year, like Les Miz and Lincoln. The consistency of this perception has seemed robust. I don’t think I’m that crazy to think of Zero Dark Thirty as not in the exact same boat as ___, ___, and ___.

    That’s why when I see an outlier–Ebert–it merits a particularly quizzical response.

  35. Free
    December 27, 2012

    “Will Roger’s streak continue? He has had the BP winner on his list since 2004.”

    That’s not really that amazing, though, is it? I mean, having the one film that wins out of a list of ten? I’m pretty sure most critics have this same “streak,” and probably for a lot longer than the past 8 years. Now producing lists that coincide with all the nominated films, however, that’s something to take note of.

  36. CB
    December 27, 2012

    Agreed with Jerry – aside from my issues with ZD30′s torture use, I seem to be one of a few people who don’t think it’s a particularly distinguished movie technically, artistically, or writing-wise. The script isn’t very good, the direction is very very sub-Greengrass (who I like quite a bit), the acting is a mix of people yelling or looking exasperated, and the editing isn’t anything that impressed me. An OK-made movie at best with no unique or interesting style or voice.

  37. Free
    December 27, 2012

    It’s not mentioned here, but Ebert said that 2012 was the best year for movies in a decade, meaning that the last great year was 2002. Am I the only one who totally disagrees with this? 2007 & 2006 were both amazing, and 2002, I thought, was a dreadful year, maybe even worse than 2000.

  38. Jesse Crall
    December 27, 2012

    Awesome to see Flight make his top 10. *looks around, sees blank, staring eyes* Awesome to me, at least.

    Ryan’s right about Ebert’s bizarre star ratings, but he gives a 4-star review almost every week, so don’t be surprised when a bunch are left off his final top-10 list. Cloud Atlas certainly isn’t the only one. He’s not like Peter Travers who leaves the 4-star reviews solely to his few ‘absolute best’ of the year.

  39. CB
    December 27, 2012

    Jesse – I really liked Flight. In a perfect world, Kelly Riley would be getting that supporting actress Oscar instead of Sally Field’s histrionics.

    Free – also totally agree. This year was weak as hell. 2006 had Babel, Departed, United 93, Little Children, and Notes on a Scandal. 2007 was the best year in so many years for film: There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, Atonement, Eastern Promises, Away from Her, Into the Wild, Bourne Ultimatum, and Ratatouille.

  40. December 27, 2012

    Jerry, I agree with your latest comment more than the one that came before it. I think the earlier wording got under my skin.

    “a growing feeling among people that they simply don’t *want* it to win”

    see, I don’t know what to make of that. How and where are you measuring or even sensing this growth of feeling among people? What people? Like, I know it sounds dickish to ask, but you seem confident so who are these people with these feelings that are growing?

    I’m just not sensing this creeping feeling that more and more people are wanting more and more for the movie to lose as days go by. On the other hand — I not counting on ZDT to win BP, and I’d be pretty shocked if it does. Shocked in a way that’s not altogether bad, but really shocked.

    But again, I’m glad I asked and I’m glad you made another effort to help me understand what you mean — because your second stab at explanation makes more sense to me.

  41. CB
    December 27, 2012

    Ryan, the sensitivity training is working ;)

  42. December 27, 2012

    well, don’t let the sedative effects of the medication give you a false sense of security. It wears off.

  43. CB
    December 27, 2012

    Touche, sir.

  44. SallyinChicago
    December 27, 2012

    I agree with Lars…Argo is way overrated….good but not GREAT movie.

  45. Jesse Crall
    December 27, 2012

    @CB: I agree with you on Reilly although I thought both Field and this year as a whole were stellar.

  46. Manuel
    December 27, 2012

    Arbitrage is a good movie not great. Richard Gere is the standout but I still think Arbitrage could have been better if the main character was a woman played by Susan Sarandon. More complex and fresh

    The inclusion of Oslo 31 August is awesome and this little Norwegian movie keeps poping up in several 2012 top 10 list. Yeeeaah!

  47. Linc4jess
    December 27, 2012

    I am thinking that the Academy should nominate Chris Waltz and DiCaprio for supporting actors although Waltz is more of a lead in “Django Unchained”. Both were excellent. Samantha Bark over Hathaway in “Les Mis” although Hathaway would be ok but neither is as good as Sally Field in “Lincoln”. Hugh Jackman for “Les Mis” is a probable to please the “Les Mis” fan base but Day-Lewis should win best actor or their is no best of best at OSCAR time. I would bet that fan devotion will get “Les Mis” into the top five best picture race although I am thinking there are better films out there to choose from. Tarantino should get a nod for best director for the hugely entertaining “Django” but I still like Spielberg for “Lincoln” because IMHO there is no better film this year than “Lincoln”. If Tarantino doesn’t there is no best of best at OSCAR time. Gosh, all this banter and the OSCAR nods haven’t even being announced. Oh well.

  48. Sato
    December 28, 2012

    Of course some films like Argo will be overrated… It’s appears in most critics’ top ten… Can’t blame the movie for being one of the year’s best reviewed film eh?

  49. TOM
    December 28, 2012

    If nominated, Ebert is the breed of critic that will be proclaiming a QWallis Best Actress win.

  50. Kyle Pinion
    December 28, 2012

    Wow, Flight, really? That was probably my most painful movie-going experience this year, and I sat through both The Amazing Spider-man and Sinister. And to rank it above Beasts of the Southern Wild, I’m flabbergasted.

  51. December 28, 2012

    That’s a new one. I hadn’t heard such a bad reaction for FLIGHT. Would you elaborate, Kyle Pinion? I’m interested. It’s not one of my favorites but I still think it’s a very good film.

  52. g
    December 28, 2012

    So happy Argo is his number 1! I am also thrilled to see arbitrage on there, what a great movie :)

  53. Kyle
    December 28, 2012


    I thought the first act was strong enough up until after the plane crash, everything following it was just awful. Bad preachy dialogue, overracting dialed up to about 11, particularly on Kelly Reilly’s part, and maybe the most sickeningly saccharine last act as I’ve ever seen in a film that wasn’t on Lifetime. It was just a poor effort all around.

  54. December 29, 2012

    boring ugly list this year!

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